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Yoko’s first solo album, Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band (a companion to John’s first POB album without The Beatles) was recorded shortly after their recording of Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins in 1968. These sessions were the first instance in which John introduced a rhythm to Yoko’s music. The vocals were especially raw as the couple had been undergoing Primal Therapy with Arthur Janov.
Yoko’s raw, intense avant-garde vocals are derivative of hetai, a Japanese vocal technique in Kabuki theatre which requires straining of the voice. She also emulates a woman during childbirth. We can hear her crying inside. Though she speaks two languages fluently, why does she choose not to use words?
BECAUSE THERE ARE NO WORDS!
In 1968 jazz great Ornette Coleman invited Yoko to perform with his band at Royal Albert Hall. Side Two begins with a live rehearsal of a piece titled ‘AOS’ (February 29,1968) with Coleman on trumpet and his band; Charlie Haden and David Izenzon (both on bass), and Ed Blackwell (drums).
Yoko titled her piece ‘AOS’ (from the Japanese word ‘ao’ meaning blue(s) and ‘os’ from the English ‘chaos’). ‘Blue Chaos’ was possibly intended to deviate from Miles Davis’ album title, Kind of Blue (1959).
Yoko’s conditions were that it be her piece – not the musicians’. Foregoing musical notation, she scored her piece with words to convey what the musicians should play
…Think of the days when you had to suffer in silence for ten days of eternity before you could give, and yet you were afraid of giving because what you were giving was so true and so total, you knew that you would suffer a death after that.
Think of the days when you allowed silences in your life for dreaming…
This is no shit. No mood or whatever you call it. It’s real…
Forget about what you’ve learnt or heard in the music academy world…
*AOS is also the title of a short Yoji Kuri film made in 1964, for which Yoko vocalized on the soundtrack.
Here is a story about the film on Yoji Kuri’s 90th birthday, April 11, 2018. https://www.awn.com/animationworld/keep-it-motion-classic-animation-revisited-aos
A piece called AOS was also performed as part of A Grapefruit in the World of Park @ Carnegie Hall on November 24, 1961 (Restaged at Sogetsu Art Center in Tokyo, 1962). ‘AOS – To David Tudor’ was performed in the dark, in total silence. The only audible sounds were inadvertent. Yoko wrapped two performers in gauze, back to back, with an assortment of empty bottles and cans dangling from their bodies. The instruction was to walk across the stage without making any noise. Yoko’s aim was to break the audience from habitual patterns of listening and thinking.
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Yoko with Ornette Coleman, Charlie Haden, Dr. David Izenzon
and Ed Blackwell, 1968 :
John’s letter – excitedly describing ‘AOS’- to Amercian TV host Joe Franklin…
Yoko & Ornette in 2015